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Wake Forest football players excited about new coach Dave Clawson

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/20/18/08/bdLeA.Em.138.jpeg|218
    Chuck Burton - AP File Photo
    New Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson, 46, above, is 16 years younger than former coach Jim Grobe, and the Deacons can feel more energy entering this season.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/20/18/08/BdVwX.Em.138.jpeg|215
    Chuck Burton - AP
    Wake Forest's Jordan Garside answers a question Sunday at the ACC Football kickoff in Greensboro

GREENSBORO Fullback Jordan Garside knew first-year Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson would be fun when Clawson jumped in a dodge-ball tournament with the team.

His team made it to the finals of the tournament after knocking out cornerback Kevin Johnson with a fastball that Johnson couldn’t collect.

“We all got to cheer for him and see that,” Garside said Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff. “That’s just an example of how it’s a little bit different. Coach (Jim) Grobe wouldn’t have necessarily done that.”

Clawson replaced Grobe after the latter coached 13 seasons at Wake Forest. Though the Deacons had an 11-3 season in 2006 and went to the Orange Bowl, Grobe was unable to post a winning record in his final five years as coach.

Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman went to his alma mater of Bowling Green to bring in Clawson upon Grobe’s resignation. Clawson went 10-3 in 2013 and won the Mid-American Conference title with the Falcons.

Clawson, 46, is 16 years younger than Grobe, and the Deacons can feel more energy entering this season.

“Coach Grobe is an excellent coach, and both (Johnson) and I loved him and thank him for the opportunity we had,” Garside said. “With that said we’re also excited about coach Clawson. He really has invigorated Wake Forest’s football program. … I know we only get one year with him but we’re excited about it and we’re excited about what he does in the future.”

In five years at Bowling Green, Clawson went to three bowls. Along with winning the conference championship last year, the Falcons finished eighth in the nation in total defense and 23rd in total offense.

Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, the Deacons won five conference games in the past two years and closed out 2013 by losing their final five games.

When Clawson came to Wake Forest, he established a leadership council comprised of players to share their concerns for the program.

“It enabled us to see coach Clawson and how much he cared about us, and he’s really wanting to win and establish that kind of culture,” Garside said. “I think both (Johnson) and I were able to buy in.”

Johnson said a reasonable expectation for the team is the ACC championship, though the feasibility of that is questionable. Though Wake Forest’s nonconference schedule – Louisiana-Monroe, Gardner-Webb, Utah State and Army – could earn the Deacons some early wins, they will also play Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Louisville.

But Johnson believes in his team, and he believes his coach does as well.

“We’re not going to shoot for anything less than that,” he said.

“I think that if you set any other goal, you’d be selling yourself short.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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